Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
On Israeli 2013 Mayoral Elections
By Adam Keller
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 28, 2013
Of mayors and elephants
On the day after mayoral elections at a chance meeting peace and social
activists from different cities exchanged experiences.
among us felt frustrated by the fact that Mayor Ron Chuldai was re-elected,
the man who prefers prestigious towers for the rich over affordable housing
for ordinary people. The social protest movement of two years ago, starting
from Tel-Aviv, manifested itself mainly by complete absence from the polls
(instead crowding massively at the performance of Rihanna),
Jerusalemites, for their part, have cast a protest ballot paper bearing the
words "Down with the Occupation!" They could not express this in any other
way - with the only choice being between the incumbent Barkat who strongly
supports settler activity in East Jerusalem, and the challenger Moshe Leon,
who was nominated by the notorious Lieberman, and who called for creating a
national park on the eastern slope of Mount Scopus "in order to prevent Arab
construction there, because Arab construction will increase crime".
In Carmiel, there was a joint Jewish-Arab list which did not succeed to get
into the city council, but did manage to confront racist phenomena and make
it a significant issue during the elections campaign.
The people of
Givatayim were, as a matter of fact, happy about a local overturn in their
city, and the unexpected victory of an independent oppositionist over a
For quite a bit of time we talked about
these municipal elections - not immediately plunging in occupation matters.
But in the end, the elephant in the room could no longer be ignored. On the
list of the election results appear among the cities also such places as
Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim, Karney Shomron and Kiryat Arba - settlements in the
depths of the West Bank, which the election law considers full-fletched
In Kiryat Arba Mal'achi Levinger, son of the
notorious Rabbi Levinger, won a very narrow victory over a local rival. Not
that we were really interested in the titanic struggle between settler
candidates. We did enter a discussion on whether the settlement have passed
the point of no-return; on how to dismantle them if at all.
hesitantly mentioned the negotiations and Kerry's promise that they would be
finalized within nine months. "From this pregnancy there will not a baby",
said a veteran activist who had been struggling for peace even before 1967.
"And if there will be, we will be sorry that there had been no abortion".
During the hours that Israeli citizens were invited to the polls, a life
and death struggle was going on in the fields near the village of Bil'in on
the West Bank. Many hundreds of soldiers on foot and in jeeps and in
helicopters hovering above took part in a hunt for a single person: a
28-year old Palestinian named Muhammad Assi. He refused to surrender, hiding
in a cave and from there returning fire to the soldiers, until bulldozers
were brought in, destroying the cave and enabling the soldiers to shoot on
him an anti-tank missile.
According to the army communique, Muhammad
Assi was an activist of the Islamic Jihad, and was one of those who planned
an attack on a Tel-Aviv bus on November 21, 2012, when the Israeli Air Force
was bombing the city of Gaza. It seems that since the cease-fire in Gaza, he
did not try further such attacks but according to the communique "he
constituted during the past months a grave threat to military forces in
Judea and Samaria". In the headlines on the mass circulation Israeli papers
was expressed satisfaction with the "liquidation of the dangerous terrorist"
and the success of the army to settle accounts. The term "liquidation"
usually refers to an operation where it was decided in advance that the
hunted person will not come out alive. And indeed, when a flesh and blood
person is shot with a missile designed to penetrate the steel plating of a
tank the result cannot be in any doubt.
Following these events in
their fields, the youths of Bil'in who are rather used to skirmishing with
the army, rose up to hours of clashes. On them, the soldiers did not shoot
anti-tank missiles, only very many salvos of tear-gas and rubber-coated
metal bullets which sent several TV-crews to days of hospitalization. Only
towards the evening the struggle in the fields of Bil'in ended - until next
Also on the same election day, there was another struggle, in
other fields. A smaller event than the manhunt, just a chase after
shepherds. Shepherds from the tiny village of Ein el-Hilweh, which does not
appear on any map,came close with their herds to the fences of the Maskiot
settlement. Settler security officers arrived and started a chase, and
alerted military forces to join them. The soldiers who soon arrived arrested
two young shepherds, named Yasir Qadri and Jilal Adel. The other shepherds
were warned by the soldiers never again to come near the settler fences. If
it happens again, the army would not only arrest shepherds but also open
fire on their sheep.
That godforsaken hamlet Ein el-Hilweh, not
appearing on map - I was there bit more than a year ago, in July 2012, and
here is what I then wrote:
When the people of Ein al-Hilweh put
their ears to the ground, they faintly hear the gurgling of water going
through pipes underneath – pipes to which they have no access. The water
comes from a spring nearby, a spring which had sustained the life of this
community for generations and indeed gave it its name - "Ein al-Hilweh"
means "The Sweet Spring" in Arabic.
The name still remains – but the
spring itself, like almost all water sources in the Jordan Valley, has been
taken over by "Mekorot", the Israeli governmental water company. The sweet
spring has been enclosed and surrounded by fences, and industrious pumps
installed to channel every single drop into the system of pipes.
Since these words were written nothing changed, except for a great
increase of the army's pressure on isolated Palestinian villages in the
Jordan Valley - ever since the Jordan Valley became a top issue in the
"peace talks." As it happens, exactly now these negotiations centre on the
water issue. Dr. Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, raised
(and not for the first time) the unfairness of the division of water in the
West Bank, asserting that Israel is taking for itself most of the water
available. It was not published what was the reaction of Justice Minister
Livni on behalf of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
One day later, Secretary
of State Kerry invited Netanyahu to meet him in Rome, and asked him for his
concept of the future borders and what he suggests to overcome the deadlock
in the talks. Seven hours the discussion lasted in which also participated
the senior aids of both, and also the US ambassador to Israel and the
Israeli ambassador to the US. But a lot of results there were not, at least
to conclude from the prime minister's words at the concluding press
conference. Like on many previous occasions, Netanyahu re-iterated his
strong wish and desire for peace, at the same declaring that under no
circumstances would he give up "territories vital for the security of
Israel" (i.e. the Jordan Valley).
So, what is going to be the next
step of Secretary of State Kerry, and how does he intend to reach an
agreement within the stipulated 9 months? It seems that nobody asked that
question in the Rome press conference.
Adam Keller is an anti-occupation, Israeli Peace Now activist.